CFPB Reports Examination Findings, Updates Examination Manual, and Details Supervisory Appeals Process

The CFPB today released its first periodic Supervisory Highlights publication, along with an updated examination manual and a bulletin about the Bureau’s examination appeals process.

The Supervisory Highlights report describes the CFPB’s supervisory activity from July 2011 through September 2012, including with regard to credit cards, credit reporting, and mortgages, and “signal[s] to all institutions the kinds of activities that should be carefully scrutinized.” During its first year of conducting exams, the CFPB states that it has found compliance management system deficiencies, including with regard to fair lending compliance programs and oversight of affiliate and third-party service providers.  The report also reviews nonpublic actions taken to enforce compliance with the CARD Act and FCRA,  and identifies several areas of concern for mortgage originators.

Bulletin 2012-07 details the CFPB supervisory appeals process, and addresses confidentiality and the role of the CFPB Ombudsman.  Finally, the updated Supervision and Examination Manual incorporates the various procedures issued since the manual first was published in October 2011, e.g. the payday lending and consumer reporting exam procedures.  The updated manual also includes new references to the Code of Federal Regulations to reflect the republishing of federal consumer finance law regulations under the CFPB’s authority.

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DOJ Files First Civil Fraud Suit Alleging False Claims Act And FIRREA Violations In The Sale Of Loans To Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac

On October 24, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) filed a $1 billion civil mortgage fraud lawsuit against a mortgage lender and a major financial institution in connection with loans sold to the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac). Filed as a complaint-in-intervention in a pending qui tam, or whistleblower, lawsuit, the complaint alleges that the mortgage lender engaged in a scheme to defraud the GSEs in connection with the mortgage loans it sold to them, and that the financial institution that later acquired the lender was aware of and continued the misconduct. The suit seeks damages and penalties under the False Claims Act (FCA) and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA). This is the first civil suit brought by the Department of Justice concerning mortgages sold to the GSEs, and indicates that the government might commence other suits based on the sale of conventional mortgages to those entities.

The government’s allegations focus on a loan origination system initiated by the lender in 2006 that allegedly eliminated checkpoints on loan quality and led to fraud and other defects in the loans. The complaint alleges that the lender and the financial institution sold these loans to the GSEs but misrepresented that the loans complied with GSE requirements. The GSEs pooled the loans into mortgage backed securities and sold them to investors, subject to guarantees on principal and interest payments. As the allegedly defective loans defaulted, the GSEs suffered over $1 billion in losses through the payment of guarantees to investors. Read more…

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CFPB Finalizes Debt Collector “Larger Participant” Rule

On October 24, the CFPB issued a final rule that will allow the Bureau to supervise certain debt collectors. Under this rule, debt collectors will be required to provide certain disclosures, provide accurate information, maintain a consumer complaint and dispute-resolution process, and communicate civilly and honestly with consumers. Beginning January 2, 2013, the CFPB will be able to examine and take enforcement actions against any entity that has more than $10 million in annual receipts from consumer debt collection activities. The CFPB anticipates that the rule will cover approximately 175 third-party debt collectors, debt buyers, and collection attorneys. The final rule retains the proposed annual receipts threshold used to identify “larger participants” but excludes from the definition of annual receipts those receipts that result from collecting debts originally owed to a medical provider. The final rule also limits covered consumer debt collection activities to those conducted by “debt collectors,” which are defined as persons whose principal business activity is debt collection or that “regularly” engage in debt collection. The CFPB declined to provide a blanket exemption to attorneys, as some commenters argued was required by the Dodd-Frank Act. Concurrent with the release of the final rule, the CFPB published procedures for use in examining covered debt collectors. This rule is the second “larger participant” rule, and it follows the July 2012 consumer reporting rule. The Dodd-Frank Act requires the CFPB to promulgate a rule to define “larger participant” nonbanks in certain consumer financial services markets.

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Nevada AG Obtains Multi-Million Dollar Settlement of MBS Investigation

On October 24, Nevada Attorney General (AG) Catherine Cortez Masto announced the resolution of an investigation into a financial institution’s purchasing and securitization of subprime and payment option adjustable rate mortgages. The Nevada AG’s investigation concerned potential misrepresentations by lenders with regard to loans with such terms as adjustable rates, stated income, 100 percent financed, extended amortization periods, prepayment penalties, and/or initial teaser rate. The Nevada AG was examining whether the securitizer knowingly purchased such loans and substantially assisted the lenders by financing and purchasing their potentially deceptive loans. To resolve the investigation, the securitizer agreed to pay $42 million and to abstain from financing, purchasing, or securitizing Nevada subprime mortgage loans in the future unless it has engaged in a “reasonable review” of such loans and determined that the loans comply with the Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

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FinCEN Issues Guidance on Filing SARs related to Payment Processors

On October 22, FinCEN issued advisory guidance to financial institutions for filing Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) on conduct related to third-party payment processors. The FinCEN guidance lists several potential red flags with regard to these payment processors, including (i) fraud, (ii) accounts at multiple financial institutions, (iii) money laundering, (iv) enhanced risk, (v) solicitation for business, and (vi) elevated rate of return of unauthorized debit transactions. To identify suspicious activity involving payment processors, FinCEN suggests that financial institutions review and update their anti-money laundering programs, monitor whether legal actions are pending against payment processors, and verify that payment processors have all required state licenses and registrations. In addition, financial institutions may be required to file SARs if they know or suspect that a payment processor has conducted a transaction involving funds derived from illegal activity, or where a payment processor has attempted to disguise funds derived from illegal activity. When completing SARs related to payment processors, FinCEN requests that financial institutions (i) check the appropriate box on the SAR form indicating the type of suspicious activity, and (ii) include the term “Payment Processor” in the narrative and the subject occupation portions of the SAR.

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